Wing Chun Kung Fu and dog training

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I am a Wing Chun practitioner.  What does this form of Chinese Kung Fu have to do with my dogs and their training and behavior?  Plenty.  (Stay with me)  Wing Chun is a form of Kung Fu that employs close combative methods.  Legend has it that a Shaolin nun, one of the five original Kung Fu masters from Shaolin Temple, created the Wing Chun system based on movements she observed as a snake fought with a crane.  The good Wing Chun practitioner utilizes touch, space, balance, and speed to their advantage and looks to exploit the opponent’s mistakes and movements by way of trapping, and direct striking and blocking simultaneously.

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“Trapping” in Wing Chun is whenever one person arrests the movements, usually the forearms, of another.  In Wing Chun we always seek to move forward and to control the center line of the opponent’s body.  Once center line is gained the Wing Chun man has a direct line of attack.  The fastest distance between two points is a straight line.  Wing Chun teaches straight line punching to foment speed and accuracy.  In order to gain the center line of the opponent – touching (seek the bridge) inevitably takes place.

Over the years I’ve noticed how direct and effective dog movement and touching is.  As predatory animals they don’t beat around the bush.  Dogs, like the good Wing Chun disciple, move forward with determined intentionality.  Dogs are extremely sensitive to touching as is the good Wing Chun student.  Dogs, if left unchecked, will build strong habits of over-touching and out-maneuvering those people that are around them.  Those touch habits then lead the dog to assume command of the household.  Once a dog assumes command there’s no reason in their mind why they can’t discipline a guest, neighbor, or even a family member with a bite because sometimes that’s actually acceptable behavior in the world of canines.  The higher ranking family member is supposed to guide and discipline the lower ranking/younger or less balanced individuals within the group/pack to aid them in the fine art of canine social skills and language and in order to claim what is what and whose is whose.  The animal doesn’t know that we humans tend to frown upon a dog if it bites one of our children – the dog only knows it’s been given totally unhampered reign in the areas of touch and space, movement, and in primal grooming rituals within its home environment!  In other words, the dog owner has really dropped the ball and so the dog naturally takes charge filling the leadership void.  This “taking charge” often appears friendly at first until…months or years later…it doesn’t!  (This friendly familiarity breed rudeness quite quickly within the relationship between dog and human)

To begin to reverse poor behavior in ANY dog or pup you must consider and then employ The Four Pillars of dog language.  (for more on the Four Pillars please see my other posts by that name and keep an eye out for the upcoming book I am writing about them!)  I want anyone reading this to act like a Wing Chun expert and first of all  – be very aware of touching.  Most people are greatly lacking in sensitivity when it comes to The Four Pillars of dog language.  (People know to be sensitive with a horse, or with a bird, or when swimming with sharks but with dogs everyone’s been taught the wrong things – they’ve been taught many behavioral myths – hence my first book, Dog Myths)

Secondly, if and when your dog attempts to jump up on you, or nose you, or lick you, or mouth you, or elicit petting from you by way of barging into your personal space – move forward, take up space, and intercept the dog’s touch with a touch of your own if necessary.  Use your hands and move your body forward into the dog.  Be aware of your center line!  In this case though, because your dog is not your enemy or opponent, it’s necessary to also keep your dog in center line with you to attain the clearest form of communication possible – you both meet in the center line.  Make sure you are looking right at the dog and the dog is looking right at you.  (Do NOT pay the dog with food for this attention or it reduces the relationship to that of a wild animal and you do NOT have respect and therefore cannot offer trust – also, and this is rather important – no other dog on the planet needs food or treats or baby talk to enter into a healthy relationship with another member of their species).  Aline both centers.  In this way a clear understanding on the part of the dog is gained.  If the dog is looking away or leaving the space or just blowing you off – then your center line is weak and/or your energy was not firm enough.  It is also possible that your energy was very strong but not calm enough.

We need both firmness and calmness; respect and trust; control and freedom within the relationship.  This can be hard because many people are lacking in one or the other.  Some are firm enough but not calm (they are frustrated, or angry, or over-emotional).  Others are really calm with their dogs but have no fight in them at all and so they lack any sort of firm or strong energy and, thus, the dog persists in misbehavior.  Learn both firmness and calmness and you’ll work wonders with any dog or any animal for that matter.

Wing Chun blends internal (soft and calm energy) martial arts with external (hard and strong energy) martial arts techniques.  It can be quite effective in a real fight depending, of course, on the individual using it.  As dog lovers we should all strive to be as well rounded as the ancient Kung Fu masters as we work to better ourselves and our dogs and their behaviors.  Good luck!

-G

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Dogs: to drug or not to drug

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That is the question.

Drugs.  Exactly when did we stop saying “No!” to them?  In truth, those of us in the Western world understand that we’ve all been slowly programmed by television “programming” that we’ve steadily yet heavily been consuming over the long years.  You, Dear Reader, know precisely the annoying commercials I speak of.

If you’re experiencing an erection for over four hours, if you have upset stomach, if you have delusions of grandeur, if you have hot dog fingers, “if you’re feeling sad and lonely, there’s a service I can render,” if you have thoughts of suicide, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam (and at this time please insert any other Latin phrases you’d like to into this poor excuse for a run on sentence).  My point, drugs are more mainstream than ever and if you don’t want to run the risk of acquiring them on a shady street corner in the ghetto with cash you can easily get them instead from your tidy, little, lab-coated, local, neighborhood, MD or your DVM (vet)Image result for drugging a dog images

 

As for me, I grew up hearing drugs were bad.  Now, in the age of ultra convenience and instant gratification, they are often presented to us as a solution!  And because dogs and people are inextricably linked together, our poor decisions and cultural practices often have a way of pulling dogs down the exact same road.  Drugging dogs has never been more widespread than it is today.

I work daily to get dogs off of Prozac and other similar drugs.  My concern is the vets that readily deal these drugs often do NOT have an active plan in place of getting them back off of the stuff!  In several cases I have seen they just want to keep increasing the dosage.  That is a problem.  Frankly, my friends, at what point does someone say, What the hell is going on?  Is my dog supposed to be so neurotic in the first place that drugs are even on the table as a legitimate option for treatment?  Is this a natural and healthy existence for my dog?  Have you, Dear Reader, thoughtfully considered the financial aspects of paying to drug your dog every day of the week throughout its existence?  Have you thought about what a quality life really entails for man or beast?

Please understand I can only speak from my professional training experience (I work with, on average, six or more dogs and families usually six days a week) and I’m surrounded by seriously problematic dogs.  We have a great reputation for handling the monsters.  This isn’t your normal puppy class stuff.  It’s not the classic stuff where the “certified” trainer bribes their way through the miserable hour of training by stuffing hundreds of treats in the pup’s mouth in order to elicit the animal to “sit” for the hundredth time and, as the weeks progress the “group” class soon dwindles down to one or two faithful yet lonesome and disheartened souls.  No, no.  I handle all the dramatic, lunging, totally imbalanced dogs on the daily – be they fearful, anxious, hyper, dominant, skittish, and particularly aggressive.  Many of the dogs I deal with want to (and have) put a hurting on people or on other dogs.  In all my years dealing with these types of dogs we’ve discovered that exactly three were helped slightly by drugs!  And I’ve been doing this for a decade and a half!!!  The rest of these canine junkies were either unaffected by it, made worse from it, or given so much they acted like half-dead zombies!  (Again, this is just my experience with thousands and thousands of dogs, I’m sure there have been others that we haven’t seen that have, in fact, been helped by drugs but my point is why not natural solution first?)

Let me be clear.  I am NOT a vet.  I would never pretend to be and don’t desire to be one in the least.  While the vets deal with the dog body I specialize and work with the dog mind and the behaviors that flow from both the body and brain – resulting in energy and movements, and behavior.  (Again, I am just sharing what I’ve personally seen and worked with and what I’ve heard from all our clients over the many years.)   I’m writing this not to go against your local veterinarian but to try and get to you first to get the gears of your mind turning!  It’s okay to ask questions.

Why not seek out a more natural solution first?  Why on earth would someone who allegedly cares for their pet rush right out and get them drugs?  What happened to just saying No?  Or at least starting that way…?

My prescription:

If you have an aggressive or anxious dog I’d highly suggest employing extra exercise as a first, natural step.  Exercise mixed with heavy socialization (this means exercising out and about not just “exercise” done alone and in your stupid, boring backyard) can work wonders on behavior.  If exercised well (with definitive rules and with socialization) most dogs achieve a lower level of aggression and certainly a lower level of anxiety.

“But, but, but my dog cannot be taken out precisely because he is aggressive or she is so anxious that it makes her worse.”  Please understand, in many cases coddling of the dog is actively contributing to making the entire situation worse.  Also – and this may just be me thinking this way but – if something “cannot be done” doesn’t that make you want to rise to the challenge of proving that it can, in fact, be done!  Doesn’t that entice or tempt you to try?  If your dog or pup is so bad you “cannot” exercise it in a social environment (a local park, the waterfront, a busy neighborhood etc) look into some pro training options.  You might even start with Youtube videos on heeling and leash work.  You know why I’m suggesting that you don’t go running to your vet for advice right off the bat…because their expertise is in treating illness of the dog body and performing routine spay and neuter surgeries, is it not?  Look to Ma Nature, and to common sense, and to this professional dog linguist’s advice because I’ve actually helped thousands and thousands of aggressive and anxious dogs and their households and done it all.Without.DRUGS!

Drugs should be the Last option when it comes to dog behavior modification. 

Add exercise and work on developing a great “Heel” command (where your dog can walk and remain calmly beside you – not in front of you).  Training the “heel” teaches respect fairly quickly.  It also rapidly decreases a dog’s natural energy reserve so that’s an added bonus.  (We’ve made a video on Heeling and Leash Manners available for purchase at http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com And if you’re local we offer an incredible behavioral board and train option at Stevens Family Kennels and Dog Language Center that provides the massive pattern interrupt many aggressive, anxious, fear-riddled dogs desperately need – check us out at http://www.stevensfamilykennels.com)

Our dogs should adapt to our human way of life, sure, but not in the ignoble or darker side of humanity and society.  They should join us in the finer, elevated things.  Example: being neighborly and saying hello to people while on our walk.  Do this sort of stuff even and especially if it is very ugly due to aggression.  Every aggressive and or anxious or skittish dog needs more exposure to the wide world and not just to your home and property.  Work your heel and be at a safe distance, obviously, but get your aggressive dog on way more social outings.  And as you do that distance should naturally be able to decrease for the better.

I always tell clients, “All you have to do is keep control of your dog’s head.  In particular, the eye contact and the teeth!”  Once you do that you typically no longer have to fight the dog’s body for control (this ranges based on the size of the dog’s body).

By the way, if you cannot control your aggressive dog’s head and eye contact you MUST, MUST, MUST order one of my custom-fit, hand-made, training collars because they work miracles for people!  Incredibly strong, light weight, smooth-flowing and unobtrusive, our collars will out perform any harness, martingale, flat buckle collar, choker, halti, gentle leader, or prong collar on the market!  Check them out at http://www.gstevensdogtrainer.com (search the Custom Products page)

Aggression in our dogs is so mishandled by mainstream dog trainers, behaviorists, and vets.  They don’t seem to know the dog language, they don’t actually “speak dog” although they all claim to, they only do what’s already been done and yet they expect different or good results and that, Friends, is the definition of insanity.

We must all re-examine our dogs and their behavior.  We must all re-examine why we are acting how we’re acting and what we are doing with our dogs.  We must all confront the tempting trap of convenience as we move into the future.  We must reserve drugging the dog as one of the very last options of treatment especially if we truly care for our dogs like everyone claims to.

Thanks for reading and considering this.  This was another honest post for you and your dogs.

-G